Monthly Archives: February 2015

Records of Old Norfolk County

MA Norfolk (old) Co Towns (Map available at
MA Norfolk (old) Co Towns
(Map available at

Recently, I was searching for records in Amesbury and Salisbury, as well as in Dover and Newton, New Hampshire. I began my search in Essex County, Massachusetts, but as I went further back in time, I realized that I needed to examine records from “Old Norfolk County.”

The first Norfolk County, now called Old Norfolk County, was one of the original four counties created in 1643 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony; the other three counties were Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex. Old Norfolk County encompassed the area north of the Merrimac River–essentially what is now part of Amesbury, Salisbury, and Haverhill in Massachusetts, and Dover, Hampton, Exeter, and Portsmouth (originally known as Strawberry Banke) in New Hampshire. Continue reading Records of Old Norfolk County

A toe in the web

Alicia Crane WilliamsI recently put my toe in the web and obtained a domain name for a new website. I won’t share that name with you right now as nothing is connected to it yet. Actually, it isn’t my first domain name. About a decade ago I obtained a name for my freelance genealogy business, which I eventually abandoned even though I did get as far as creating a website. I was too busy to tend to it and the technology was above my comfort level. Continue reading A toe in the web

First time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 2

Entrance to Family History Library
Entrance to Family History Library

While my friends in the snowy Northeast will not appreciate my first impression of Salt Lake City, here it is: 65 and sunny; no snow, just green grass and clear skies. I hope the good weather is a premonition of the week ahead: Could it be my best research week ever? Continue reading First time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 2

First Time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 1

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

When NEHGS asked me to attend the RootsTech–FGS conference, I was equally overjoyed and anxious. I’ve never before been to the Family History Library, and I want to be sure to take best advantage of being at one of the world’s top genealogical research facilities. I turned to my NEHGS colleagues for advice, and they gave me four great suggestions for my first visit: Continue reading First Time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 1

The most tedious records of them all . . .

1770 Exeter tax
1770 Exeter tax roll showing Elizabeth Gorden, from FamilySearch.

Reading town records can be daunting. They are often the very last set of records that we consult in our research. Town records are often out of order, difficult to read, and contain pages upon pages of mundane town votes. They can leave the most enthusiastic genealogist a little bleary-eyed. But sometimes patience and perseverance pay off, and you can discover that little, long-sought piece of information about your ancestor. Continue reading The most tedious records of them all . . .

Dear associations

Hedwiga Gray diary1
Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Regina Shober Gray (1818–1885) spent the last forty years of her life in Boston, but she remained strongly connected to her native Philadelphia – and to her siblings. The death of her eldest sister Mary Morris Shober (1816–1873) hit Mrs. Gray particularly hard, as she – with their older brother John Bedford Shober (1814–1864) – was in Mrs. Gray’s view one of the heads of the family, and someone she thought of when she thought of home. Continue reading Dear associations

The Name Game

The first Emma, Emma (Byrt) Powell.
The first Emma, Emma (Byrt) Powell.

When my daughter was born, we chose the name Emma for her. Like many first-time parents, we considered and discarded many names. But we kept circling back to Emma because it’s a family name, and it follows an interesting pattern:

Emma Powell, born 1836 in Bristol, England

Ella Byrt, born 1860 in Chicopee, Massachusetts

Emma Ladd, born 1886 in New York

Ella Clark, born 1915 in Richmond Hill, New York Continue reading The Name Game

“Speak, memory”: Part Two

Knapper Cressey
Courtesy of

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about preparing to interview family members as part of an oral history.

Conducting the Interviews

When selecting family members to interview for your oral history, it is always best to begin with family members who will be comfortable discussing the past and their memories of it; there is a chance that other, less enthusiastic family members will be encouraged to participate after seeing the product of successful interviews.[1] Continue reading “Speak, memory”: Part Two

“Speak, memory”: Part One

Fry 1963
Courtesy of Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

“Imagine listening to an elderly relative tell of her journey to America as an immigrant, her arrival at Ellis Island, and her first job in a clothing factory. Or imagine another family member describing how he worked on the family farm, learned to read in a one-room school house, and courted his wife at church socials. Such are the opportunities available to the family historian who draws upon the method of oral history.” So begins Linda Shopes’s poignant essay “Using Oral History for a Family History Project.” As Shopes movingly points out, oral histories are among the most useful and satisfying methods of compiling family histories. Continue reading “Speak, memory”: Part One